The whole world has moved to a stage of mourning as the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away on September 8, 2022. With her 70 years of ruling, she was the longest ruling monarch of the British Empire, and the second-longest ruling monarch ever recorded. Queen Elizabeth II outlived most of her peers and was a favorite person for many.
Today, in her honor, we bring you “The Queen Is Dead” a song by the English rock band The Smiths. But, this is not a tribute song in memory of Queen Elizabeth II, as the song was released on June 16, 1986, when the queen was a mere 60 years old. The song landed in hot water for obvious reasons. Regardless, the song was not an attack on Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but rather an expression of disdain towards the monarch systems.
The songwriter and the frontman of The Smiths, Steven Morrissey, talked to NME about the song and its lyrics;
I didn’t want to attack the monarchy in a sort of beer monster way but I find as time goes by this happiness we had slowly slips away and is replaced by something that is wholly grey and wholly saddening. The very idea of the monarchy and the Queen of England is being reinforced and made to seem more useful than it really is. The whole things seems like a joke. A hideous joke.
“The Queen Is Dead” is a track from The Smith’s third studio album of the same name. The song was not released as a single, however, was a frequent guest during live performances by the band.
Listen to “The Queen Is Dead” by The Smiths
The Smiths “The Queen Is Dead” Lyrics Meaning and Song Review
The intro of the song is taken from an old music hall song titled ‘Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty.’ The song became widely popular during the First World War (1914-1918). It narrates the story of three fictional soldiers longing to return to their home Blighty (AKA Britain) from the war front.
From the very first verse, The Smiths come off brutal. The band paints a picture of a wild boar stuck between a few archers who have drawn their weapons to kill it. The boar is frightened and helpless and knows it’s at the end of its days. This is how the band perceives the British monarchy to be. It doesn’t stop here. The Smiths envision the monarch’s head on a giant sling. It doesn’t stop here, either. The band calls this visual a “wonderful thing.”
Very brave, indeed.
Next, the band turns its attention toward Prince Charles III (King, at the time of this article). The band mocks the fact that Prince Charles III has been waiting so long to become the King since his mother, Queen Elizabeth II has been ruling for what seems like an eternity. The Prince had to live in the shadow of his mother for the major part of his life. Charles III finally became the King of Britain and 14 other commonwealth nations, at the age of 73, following the death of the Queen.
In the second verse of “The Queen Is Dead,” The Smiths play the comedic game of trying to find what their position is in the line for the throne. They claim they are at the 18th spot, meaning that 17 others have to pass on for them to become the King/Queen. This is also a jab at the Prince who had to wait for generations to ascend the throne.
The latter part of the song is dedicated to the change in the tides of society during the time of this song. The band sings about the uprising of drugs among the citizens and how accessible they have become. Some nine-year-olds can buy drugs on the street. This was a big statement for 1986 but is very common in the present day of 2022.
The world is changing around them, whilst the monarchy does not. Almost all of the countries in the world have moved towards democratic elections while Britain sits on their old ways.
In the third verse of the song, The Smiths break into the palace of the Queen–Buckingham Palace. This, itself, is a mocking of the security of the palace as there has been an incident of break-in in 1982.
You would expect one to go all ‘mission impossible’ mode to break into Buckingham palace. However, the reality was very different. The 1982 actual break-in happened after the intruder climbed over the fence wall of the palace. The Smiths mock this and say they broke in only with a sponge and a rusty spanner.
The Smiths meet the Queen and have a little chat. The Queen mocks the band saying that they can’t even sing. The Smiths don’t deny it–they double down on it; “That’s nothing, you should hear me play piano.”
In the latter part of the verse, The Smiths mock the whole administrative system and the citizens of the United Kingdom. The nation considers the Queen as their second mother (or first) and is loved by all. This affects the decision-making of the nation. The band calls this being ‘castrated.’ This is when someone loses their testicles–a sign of lack of confidence, personality, and direction. Everyone would just become a ‘hail the Queen’ person even during crucial decision-making times.
In the fourth verse, The Smiths and the Queen continue their conversation. The band wants to talk about “love and law and poverty,” some topics they think are important. But the Queen has different things on her mind. A tiny drizzle makes the Queen go mad because it messes up her hairstyle and appearances are a big part of the monarchy. The Smiths give up as the monarchy clearly has no interest in matters beyond the veil of the palace.
To sum up the entire song, The Smiths talk about everything wrong with the 80s society. The pubs that poured unlimited liquor that snapped your body and mind and the church that ‘takes’ your money, poverty was growing and drugs were becoming prominent.
The Queen is dead!
This line speaks more about the fall of the empire and its society along with. Back in the time of actual Kings and Queens, they were devoted to establishing rule and order. Today, monarchs are more or less public figures who are shadows of what they used to be.
“Life is very long, when you’re lonely” sounds more like a prediction that came true now. If being a popular actor or a singer is a lonely life, being the Queen is the extreme form of this. There is no one who can reach you except for the same two dozen people every day. She cannot do anything on her own except for the four walls of her private bedroom.
The real monarchy is dead and the shell that it has left behind causes more bad than good today. Millions of public money are spent every year on keeping this shell of an appearance for the sake of appearance.
The metaphorical Queen was dead a long time back and the real Queen is dead now!
God rest her soul!
Let us hear what you think about this song in the comments below. Check out the complete lyrics on Genius.